How and Where to Backup your Photos
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
In my mind, they are worth even more.
Pictures hold a lot of value to me. Especially the ones that are caught when no one knows you are looking. Kids laughing while they play, a mother and son in a sweet embrace; a dad and his daughter dancing; these are all images that we would like to capture and keep fresh on our minds forever.
Thanks to photography, that is a possibility. Eleven years ago, as I packed to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina, the first things I grabbed before clothes and toiletries, were my computer hard drive (which had all of my pictures on it) and my wedding albums. I also put all of my college and high school scrapbooks in giant plastic totes and stored them in my attic (just in case.)
I was very fortunate 11 years ago. Once I realized how lucky I was that I had still had all of my photos in one place, I was quick to start backing them all up. First, I bought 2 big rolls of CD’s. Then I proceeded to back up each folder of photos from my computer onto those CD’s and stored them in a plastic bin, labeled by the event. A few years later, I realized I could buy an external hard drive so I backed up my photos there AND printed photos, put them in albums and stored them in our hope chest. It was in 2007 when I realized I should really invest in an online hosting service and started to upload all of my photos there, just in case.
It came to my attention just a few weeks ago when our Baton Rouge neighbors suffered in the unprecedented flood that maybe I should share my knowledge about backing up photos with y’all!
First rule is this: Photos should always be backed up in at least TWO places.
I’m a little obsessive, so I back up my photos in at least 4 places (not counting prints). Photos can be backed up in several ways: online hosting or cloud storage; hard drive storage; print storage; and disc/flash storage. Of these, I would pick out at least two options.
Print/Hard Copy Storage
If you have a lot of paper photos from back before digital photography made it big, I would highly recommended taking the time over a few days and scanning them all in to your computer and then moving them on to a digital source. Locally, Lakeside Camera Photoworks will also restore and/or scan and save your images for digital backup and storage. Another service is Legacy Box; you can mail them all of your prints and they will restore and back them up on DVD’s and/or a flash drive. If you have them digitally and you want to back them up as hard copies, I recommend having them printed and then storing in albums OR in shoebox sized plastic bins in little envelopes labeled by month, event, etc. Make a bin for each year, if you wish and then store them in an even bigger bin so they are ready to go at a moment’s notice if you need them!
However, I still highly recommend having them all digitally too. Once you have all of your photos in digital format, here are the best ways to have them backed up.
External Hard Drive Storage
Now that you have all of your photos in a digital format, the next step is backing them up off your computer. You may ask why? Well, unfortunately for most of us, our computers give up on us at the most inopportune times. I swear, my computer always gives me the blue screen when I am in the middle of a major project OR when I’m trying to get my shopping done on Amazon Prime. HA! That being said, once your photos are all saved digitally, it is wise to back them up on an external hard drive. There are many options of external hard drives, but I recommend getting one that is a couple of Terabytes just so you have lots of room for future photos. Speaking of, you can get one really affordably on Prime. Other options are available at Best Buy, Office Depot, or even Target and Walmart for just around $100-$150. From here, you will want to copy all of your files from your photo folders to folders on your external hard drive. This is really simple, but here is a great Youtube tutorial that shows you what to do:
Now I know you may be thinking, “ok, I backed them up on an external drive, so I should be fine.” Nope. You’re not. I learned this the hard way in 2013 when my external hard drive failed, and I could no longer get files off it. I actually emailed a restoration service about getting my pictures back, and they informed me it would cost around $1500 for them to try and get what they could from it… But fortunately, I had backed up a large portion of those pictures ELSEWHERE. This is where my next suggestion comes in!
Online Photo Hosting/Cloud Storage
First, and foremost, invest in an online hosting service to store all of your photos. There are oodles of options out there. There are many free options, but those will have storage limit restrictions and/or will reduce the quality and resolution of your photos. Some of the best free ones are Flickr, Google Photos, ThisLife by Shutterfly, Photobucket, Dropbox and Apple iCloud. However, all of these have limited storage OR compress your photos so that your resolution may not be the best. If you are not that concerned with the resolution and you don’t have a TON of photos, then you should be fine. However, if you are like me and have upwards of 100,000 photos and are attached those photos, I highly recommend investing in an online host service with unlimited storage for a nominal fee. Smugmug, Zenfolio, Carbonite, Google Photos, Dropbox Pro, and Amazon Cloud (comes with your Prime subscription) all offer unlimited storage for a small investment, which could be a big investment if you ever need to replace photos that hold irreplaceable memories. Also, most of these photo hosting services also provide tagging, organization, and other tools to make it easy to find the photos you are looking for once you upload them into their servers.
So what are you waiting for? I know it sounds like a lot of work, but I promise it is worth it in the long run, especially if you need quick access to photos!